The Importance of Teaching Children Table Manners
However, children often get distracted at the dinner table, throw tantrums or begin arguing with siblings. This can lead to many a headache for parents who want to enjoy a family meal. Therefore, we want to share some tips on how to teach your children respect and good behavior at the table.
Why is it important to teach table manners to children?
For centuries, society has judged a person’s level of education and character based on table manners. The act of eating has always represented a time of respect and reverence for civilizations across the globe. In fact, it’s a moment that borders on something sacred or religious.
To this day, when a family sits down to share a meal and give thanks is a moment that defines a functional family. With this in mind, it’s clear why table manners are so fundamental. At the same time, it’s obvious why it’s so important that children show good manners when eating with guests or when eating out.
What defines a well-mannered child when it comes to mealtime?
Without a doubt, the rules of etiquette that apply to eating at the table and at social events are multiple. Many of us are unaware of rigorous protocols and precise rules.
For example, we don’t all know how we’re supposed to hold glasses, or in what order we’re supposed to arrange silverware. Much less do we know what fork we’re supposed to use with each course, etc.
Just the same, we don’t have to be masters in table etiquette to know what good manners are. There are universal codes of conduct that require children to be polite and respectful at the table.
A child with good table manners is defined as one who handles him or herself calmly. It’s a child who doesn’t rush to eat, who asks for things politely and asks for permission when necessary. It’s also a child who doesn’t play with his or her food or silverware, and who says “thank you” when served.
Of course, it’s not easy for small children to remember all the rules of how to behave at the table. However, if they smile, say please and excuse me, and sit still, then they’ve already come a long way when it comes to courtesy.
“The act of eating has always represented a time of respect and reverence for civilizations across the globe.”
What children need to know about courtesy
By the time a child is 4, he or she can start learning the basic rules of mealtime courtesy. Below is a list of simple steps that are easy for children to remember and follow.
- Washing hands before dinner: This isn’t just about good table manners, it’s a question of basic hygiene. Washing hands is a part of staying healthy.
- Helping parents set the table, or waiting patiently to be called to dinner.
- Once seated at the table, waiting for parents and guests to start eating first.
- Saying please and thank you when asking for foods or drinks.
- Not putting elbows on the table.
- Chewing slowly and keeping one’s mouth closed when chewing.
- Making frequent use of napkins to clean one’s face and hands.
- Never slurping soup or drinks.
- A child should never play with silverware. Forks, knives and spoons are strictly for eating. When not in use, the child should lay them parallel to the plate.
- When a child finishes eating, he or she should wait for permission to get up from the table.
- When leaving the table, the child should say thank you for the food and offer to help clean up the table and kitchen.
Lastly, remember that a child’s true character will come to light at mealtime. If a child is rude, grumpy or prone to tantrums in order to get his or her way, then table manners will be of little use.
In this case, it’s important that parents make an effort to reinforce good conduct around the clock, not just during meals.
All cited sources were thoroughly reviewed by our team to ensure their quality, reliability, currency, and validity. The bibliography of this article was considered reliable and of academic or scientific accuracy.
- Cadena Garzón, K. L. (2017). Las normas de urbanidad y su incidencia en la práctica de buenos modales en la mesa en los niños y niñas de 2 a 3 años del centro infantil del buen vivir “Santa Catalina Labouré” de la parroquia de Atuntaqui del cantón Antonio Ante en el año 2016-2017 (Bachelor’s thesis). http://repositorio.utn.edu.ec/handle/123456789/7256
- Jackson, A. (2008). Behaviour: Teaching table manners. Child Care, 5(4). https://www.magonlinelibrary.com/doi/pdf/10.12968/chca.2008.5.4.37552